AUSTIN, Texas – Everyone more or less knows the story of The vastness of the night before they even heard of this movie† Filmmaker Andrew Patterson readily admits that he based his feature film debut in part on a true event—the Kecksburg incident in 1965—and even the first idea that prompted him to investigate Kecksburg sounded familiar to Patterson. “I have a document in my phone with three or four dozen one-line movie ideas,” he told Ars. “This one said, ’50s, black and white, New Mexico, UFO movie.'”
But The vastness of the night ultimately depends on how the plot plays out. With a shoestring budget and tight scope, this sci-fi film has stunned festival audiences enough to attract Amazon money in large part for its spectacle – individual images you’d love to frame for the office wall, dialogue that draws you in, whatever the subject. , sonic flourishes that linger with you long after the credits roll. Talking to the filmmaker after a recent Fantastic Fest showing, it’s going to be hard to shake the feeling that he’ll be managing a much larger studio budget of his choice in the very near future.
“We knew we were working in a store-worn genre, nothing new,” says Patterson. “We wanted people to know, ‘Okay, this is a kidnapping in New Mexico – we know this story, you know this story. How can we find a way in there and do something special, to make something new?’ I wanted to make it like the movies I like, which are usually about people learning about each other, their dynamics and relationships, so, okay, I want to start this off like it’s a Richard Linklater movie… then we get to dragged something extraordinary.’
Midwestern maker mojo
Patterson spent years working as a videographer and amateur filmmaker in Oklahoma City, partially funded The vastness of the night from funds raised by making promotional videos in Oklahoma City Thunder. All those reps have clearly built an incredible technical foundation for this budding filmmaker. It may have taken four years to go from script to screen, but the craftsmanship behind this film only gets more impressive (and clearer) as the story unfolds.
To start, The vastness of the nightThe periods of the period seem seamless, but a lot of care has been taken. Basketball in the 1950s, for example, didn’t have a three-point line or modern backboards, and the game didn’t have an endless pick-and-roll. So for the big rivalry game that would occupy most of the city in this story, Patterson and co. searched Oklahoma and Texas until they found a gym in Whitney, Texas that might look good. “We went and counted gyms, looked at 400 or so,” he says. “We sanded the floor, removed the three-point line — and it cost $20,000, but I’m glad we did it. I’m tired of a sportsman that if I saw that and glass plates, come on.”
The Long night team took the same obsessive approach to more central aspects of the film, such as the radio station and switchboard. (Patterson initially toyed with the idea of a play, and those locations would have been two of the three main sets.) To help these young actors sink into the world and roles better, Patterson wanted to make sure the switchboards used for the film could be used actually used† They called the Oklahoma City Museum of Telephone History and got in touch with passionate telephone exchange collectors in the area, eventually finding four functional telephone exchanges and an enthusiast that they wanted to adapt for 2019. a system that allows you to make calls,” says Patterson. “You could grab your cell phone, call the box, and then… [Sierra McCormick, who plays Fay] you could hear in her headphones.”
The old-fashioned-looking radio station required even more little film ingenuity. The team set up the interior of the station and organized it next to the basketball court at Whitney’s gym… because they didn’t actually have permission to go to a radio station to film. “We Knew They Would Bulldoze” [the building for the town radio station] a month later, and the company had said, ‘Yeah, you’re good to use it,’ Patterson recalled. “So we put that tower on it, those callsigns in front of it, and they said, ‘We’re not comfortable with this, we’re not going to sign.’ And then we went to shoot it – it’s in the movie. The production design team put in a lot of work. Luckily it’s nighttime, so we got away with murder. “There’s a neon sign in the distance – someone throws a duvet cover over it. Do we have permission? No. Okay, nobody’s awake, go do it.” That way we could keep our dirty little secret – there’s a subway five feet away.”